It was with some nervousness that I contemplated the coming few months, as the half-empty jet sped through the African night. I was seated alone, about to embark on four months of mission work in South Sudan, the world’s newest, and arguably least developed, nation. The feeling surprised me, since this place had been my home for the majority of my childhood. This time however, I’d be experiencing South Sudan on my own, without the sheltering presence of my family.
Upon arrival, I settled back into the rhythm of South Sudanese life fairly quickly. My surroundings remained deeply familiar. I was already accustomed to village life, surrounded as I was by dusty paths and traditional Dinka homesteads. I eagerly set about hiking to my favourite places, remaking old memories. Of course, my primary reason for coming was to support the work of the missionaries at Cush Christian School. I soon learned the ropes of my teaching position, enjoying the time spent in school.
As the days went on however, I began to realize my original nervousness had not been unfounded. As much as I loved South Sudanese life, my childhood had not prepared me for the challenges of missions. When I was young, I had contented myself with remaining in the protective missionary bubble. Now, I was faced with myriad obstacles, both cultural and linguistic.
For the first time then, I dove headfirst into my surroundings. I began daily Dinka lessons and progressed rapidly as I communicated with my friends in their language for the first time. I would spend as much time as possible in the village or market, soaking up the culture and attitudes of those around me. In the process, I was forced to confront my own pride as I tore down any desire to take the high road and “be right.” It was truly an eye opening preparation for future missions work. Through this experience, I learned that half the work of missions is simply humbling oneself so as to communicate the love of Christ on the same level with those around.
Gradually, my efforts paid off. For the first time, I could express myself in Dinka, opening up a multitude of gospel opportunities. People in the community began to see me as one of them. My mind drifts back to a certain evening spent in a smoke-filled hut. In the corner, fresh crepes were being made over the open fire. I was enjoying the banter with a few friends when, rather suddenly, one of them grasped my hand and smiled. “Matuong, aya tak yin e Muonyjaang adil asa.” – Samuel, I think you’re a real Dinka now…
That, I decided, made the struggles in missions worth it.
Samuel is a 17 year old from the Ottawa RP Church. He spent much of his childhood in South Sudan, Africa as a missionary kid. He enjoys writing and recorded his experiences on the field in a short autobiography entitled Pursuit of Glory. Samuel plans to study Linguistics at Geneva College in preparation for further mission work.